When you're hurt in a slip and fall on someone else's property in Florida, it usually makes sense to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses, especially if it's pretty clear that the property owner was negligent in connection with the accident.
Whether you decide to file a claim with the property owner's insurer, or take the matter to court via a personal injury lawsuit, a number of Florida laws and legal rules will almost certainly affect your case. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall lawsuit, and "shared fault" rules that can affect your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. Read on for the details.
A statute of limitations is a law that puts a time limit on your right to have a lawsuit heard in the state's civil court system. Miss the deadline, and your case is sure to be dismissed, unless a rare exception applies to alter or extend the filing window. (Talk to an attorney for the details on these exceptions in Florida, and for more information on how the statute of limitations applies to your case.)
In Florida, anyone who is injured in a slip and fall must get their lawsuit filed against the property owner within four years of the incident. This deadline is found at Florida Statutes section 95.11(3)(a), which applies to almost all personal injury cases brought in Florida's civil courts. Note that this same four-year filing deadline applies to any lawsuit you want to file over property damage caused by the slip and fall (perhaps you had an expensive watch on and you broke it when you fell, for example).
Whether it's an injury lawsuit or one based on property damage, a Florida slip and case will almost certainly hinge on whether the property owner's negligence was the cause of the accident. Learn more about proving fault for a slip and fall.
From a strategy standpoint, you want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a slip and fall lawsuit, even if you're confident your injury claim will settle. At the very least, having the option of going to court will give you more leverage during settlement talks.
Before you file an insurance claim or lawsuit over your slip and fall, prepare yourself to hear the property owner argue that you bear some amount of blame for the accident. If this tactic is successful, you could see a significant chunk of any court award taken away (and a finding of shared fault will also likely reduce the value of your slip and fall claim even if you settle out of court).
For example, the property owner could argue that:
If your Florida slip and fall case makes it to court, the state's "pure comparative negligence rule" will be used to determine your share of legal blame for your accident, and how much compensation you can still receive from the property owner.
Under "pure comparative negligence," any damages award a personal injury plaintiff receives will be reduced according to the percentage of their fault for the underlying accident. So, let's say the jury finds that you are 15 percent to blame for your slip and fall accident. They also find that your damages (including your medical bills, lost income, and "pain and suffering") total $10,000. That will leave the property owner on the hook for $8,500 (that's the original $10,000 minus the 15 percent that equates with your share of fault).
That's how shared fault works in Florida personal injury cases if your slip and fall case makes it all the way to trial. And even if your case doesn't make it to trial -- even if a lawsuit isn't actually filed, for that matter -- Florida's comparative negligence rule will still be a factor. During settlement negotiations, the property owner's insurance company (and/or their attorney) are concerned with what might happen if your case does wind up in court. So you can expect any slip and fall settlement offer from the other side to reflect their view of your role in causing your own injuries, seen through the lens of Florida's shared fault rules. That's why it's so important to make a strong liability case against the property owner.
Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.